Campaign of the Month: October 2017
Blood and Bourbon
“I opened myself up once more, to the night,
and saw the infinite possibilities in the stars
and knew that a path of power, a path of blood
was mine for the taking,
and so I awakened in me this final path,
from which all other paths would grow.”
—The Book of Nod
Carna always found this ritual unwholesome, but playing with blood was a dirty business. Calling on her vitae to give strength, she used a warm spoon to pop free the unconscious victim’s eyeball. She sighed, quite human- like, as she twisted the orb from its tether and placed it in her mouth.
Holding her hand out, the eye still in place on her tongue, her clanmate placed a heavy knife on Carna’s palm. Without hesitation, she pulled the tip of the victim’s tongue out between his teeth, and sawed through the muscular organ. She placed the tip in her mouth, and proceeded to swallow the two components as her fellow Tremere treated the man’s bleeding orifices.
Carna turned to study the Thracian text on the wall overlooking this entire macabre scene. The man had resisted her mental compulsions, had refused to translate the work willingly, and would been useless after enough torture. It was a sad necessity that she would have to take his eye and tongue to read and speak the ancient language known only to him.
Clans: Banu Haqim, Hecata, Lasombra, Tremere
Nicknames: A kind of magic (slang), cheat codes (slang), the final path (archaic), sorcery (common), thaumaturgy (common), ’turgy (slang). Different types of Blood Sorcery may have their own nicknames.
• Necromancy: Black magic (slang), the dark arts (common), mortis (archaic), nigrimancy (common)
• Obtenebration: Abyssal mastery (common), black magic (slang), the dark arts (common), entropy (common), tenebrae Imperium (archaic)
Vampire the Masquerade (4th ed.)
Thaumaturgy: Thaumaturgy encompasses blood magic and other sorcerous arts available to Kindred. The Tremere clan is best known for their possession (and peerless mastery) of this Discipline. The Tremere created Thaumaturgy by combining mortal wizardry with the power of vampiric vitae, and as a result it is a versatile and powerful Discipline. Although there are whispers of the existence of Tremere antitribu in the Sabbat, other clans in the Sword of Caine have also researched and developed access to such mystical might. Nevertheless, the Tremere of the Camarilla remain this Discipline’s masters. Many Kindred fear crossing the practitioners of Thaumaturgy. It is a very potent and mutable Discipline, and almost anything the Kindred wishes may be accomplished through its magic.
Necromancy: Necromancy is a school of blood magic devoted to the command of the souls of the dead. The study of Necromancy is not widespread among the Kindred, and its practitioners—primarily the Sangiovanni—are shunned and despised for their foul practices (until those practices become useful, of course).
Obtenebration: The signature power of the Lasombra, Obtenebration grants the vampire power over darkness itself. The nature of the darkness invoked by Obtenebration is a matter of intense debate among Kindred. Some believe it to be merely shadows, while others feel that the power gives control over the stuff of the vampire’s soul, coaxing it tangibly outward.
Regardless, the effects of Obtenebration are terrifying, as waves of darkness roil out from the Cainite, enveloping those in their path like an infernal wave. As Obtenebration is mostly known as a Sabbat Discipline, any Camarilla vampire caught using the power had better have a damned good explanation.
Note: Vampires using Obtenebration can see through the darkness they control, though other vampires (even those that also have Obtenebration) cannot. Dreadful tales of rival Lasombra struggling to blind and smother each other with the same wisps of darkness circulate among young members of the clan, though no elders have come forth to substantiate these claims.
Quietus: The sorcery of silent death, Quietus is practiced by those of Clan Assamite. Based on elements of blood, poison, vitae control, and pestilence, Quietus focuses on the destruction of a target through a variety of means. This school of magic doesn’t always cause a quick death, but the Assamites rely on its lethality to hide their involvement with their victims.
Vampire the Requiem (1st ed.)
Crúac: Crúac is the common name for the pagan blood sorcery practiced by the Circle of the Crone. A type of ritual magic, Crúac, meaning “crescent,” is a mixture of pre-Christian and pagan magic from across the globe whose only common element is a reliance on blood sacrifice. Crúac is denounced by many traditional Kindred as “black magic” or “witchcraft,” and in areas where the Lancea et Sanctum holds sway, Crúac’s known practitioners are occasionally persecuted as heretics. Of course, it is such very derision and fear of Crúac that leads many to the Circle of the Crone and, by extension, to this Discipline’s study. The Circle of the Crone’s message of empowerment speaks to many a neonate, and for some there is no greater expression of that empowerment than this Discipline.
Crúac is one of the central mysteries of the Circle of the Crone’s belief structure, as well as a potent weapon in the covenant’s arsenal. As might be expected, knowledge of the Discipline is a closely guarded secret. New initiates are not usually trusted with its secrets. As a new member in a quasi-religious Kindred faction, a vampire might well have to prove their loyalty to the Circle through tests and ordeals before its adherents are willing to share their knowledge. Though vampires who leave the Circle of the Crone for other covenants invariably take their knowledge with them, many find it all but impossible to increase their knowledge of Crúac outside the Circle’s structure.
Because of myriad cultural differences within the Circle of the Crone, many rituals exist that approximate the following ones in effect if not in name. Thus, the level-one ritual Pangs of Proserpina may be known as the Appetite of Limba in New Orleans or the Curse of Tawrich in Tehran. Other Vampire books offer new Crúac rituals, and players and GMs are encouraged to create their own using those presented here as models.
Theban Sorcery: Theban Sorcery is the miraculous magic practiced by members of the Lancea et Sanctum. According to the covenant, it is a tradition of magic taught (or stolen, depending on to whom one listens) by an “avatar of God.” The practice is said to have been received when early members visited Thebias in northern Egypt with a contingent of Christian soldiers during the reign of Diocletian, after Longinus had vanished from the world. The Discipline has decidedly judgmental overtones, combining a focus on Biblical elements (rains of blood, plagues of locusts, the vengeance of God) with a very overt and occult reliance on righteousness.
Theban Sorcery is as jealously guarded as anti-Sanctified factions widely believe, if not more so. Vampires who leave the Lancea et Sanctum for other covenants invariably take their knowledge with them, but find it all but impossible to increase it. While few Lancea et Sanctum hit squads lurk in the shadows to whack non-Sanctified vampires who seem to be able to use the Discipline, few covenant members want to see their divinely inspired powers taken for granted. The Lancea et Sanctum isn’t foolish. It makes its mystical knowledge available “on loan” if the covenant has something to gain.
Vampire the Requiem (2nd ed.)
Most Disciplines are simple, if powerful, to use—the Blood responds to a vampire’s call in ways they know and are prepared for, without the need for elaborate ceremony or external action in all but the most powerful cases. Some Kindred, however, have discovered the means of using the Blood’s potential for so much more. These vampires can perform rituals to reach out far beyond their physical shells, twisting the world according to their desires. To the uninitiated, it looks like magic. To religious Kindred, it is prayer or an object of worship itself; to more secular vampires, it may be nothing but a tool. To the Strix, its use by Kindred is an affront. The rewards of blood sorcery are great, but so too are the costs.
Vampire the Masquerade (5th ed.)
Blood Sorcery: The Tremere maintain that Blood Sorcery, or “Thaumaturgy” as they call it, was their invention. To hear the Banu Haqim give their version, “Quietus” was their blood right long before the Tremere became vampires. Other clans make the same statements. While its origins are murky, the dreaded nature of Blood Sorcery is not. Few Kindred trust the wielders of a power that can manipulate the vitae in their veins and turn Blood into poison.
Unlike other Disciplines, which could be described as advancing organically through the victims chosen by the vampire, Blood Sorcery is much harder for practitioners to develop without a teacher. The Tremere rely on their pyramidic clan hierarchy to arrange tutelage for neonate apprentices, while the Banu Haqim stress the sire-childe relationship as being the best form of mentorship. Masters of this Discipline develop their own spells and rituals, though many guard them from others, revelling in the mystery surrounding their unknown cache of abilities. To practice Blood Sorcery is to twist one’s own Blood into submission. Any form of this power reminds a vampire that they’re far from human, as no mortal could wield magic in this way.
Oblivion: Few Kindred outside Clan Lasombra and the Hecata know the sorcerous traditions of Obtenebration and Necromancy, and as far as the Camarilla is concerned, this is a good thing. While the Lasombra favor the Discipline’s raw power, the Hecata explore its ritual uses. With these powers, vampires wield the very stuff of shadows and unlife as weapons. Some call the power’s source the Abyss, while other practitioners refer to it as the Labyrinth. The one certainty is Obtenebration and Necromancy channels the darkest arts, from where the dead go to die.
The masters of Obtenebration and Necromancy call upon the it to wreathe themselves in night, enslave spectres, or throttle victims with their own shadow. Each time they use it, wielders run the risk of losing their soul and humanity to the something darker than death and twice as hungry.
• Type: Mental
• Masquerade Threat: Low-High. The individual appearance of the spells and rituals in Blood Sorcery varies as widely as their effects.
• Blood Resonance: Sanguine. Although not inherent in the Blood itself, Blood Sorcery responds eagerly to blood from human occultists, sorcerers, and cult leaders, as well as hemophiles and bibliophiles.
Blood Sorcery Overview
Blood Sorcery isn’t a single Discipline so much as a family of closely related Disciplines. Characters purchase dots in separate types of Blood Sorcery known as Traditions that can accomplish vastly different effects, although all Traditions use the same mechanics. The most commonly known Blood Sorcery Traditions, and their most common practitioners, include: Obenebration (Lasombra), Crúac (Circle of the Crone), Dur-An-Ki (Banu Haqim), Necromancy (Hecata), Thaumaturgy (Tremere), and Theban Sorcery (Lancea et Sanctum). In New Orleans, Vodoun (Circle of the Crone) is also common. Many, many other Traditions are known or rumored to exist. There’s no upward limit on how many Traditions a vampire can learn dots in, although most sorcerers concentrate their studies upon a single Tradition.
Characters with dots in Blood Sorcery purchase special Devotions called Themes. Unlike normal Devotions, Themes do not come with preset powers. Instead, the vampire can use their Themes to accomplish anything they want that falls within the Themes’ general purview. For example, a character with the Blood Theme could warm blood for consumption, trace a vampire’s lineage with a blood sample, animate a golem servant from spilled blood, kill someone by boiling the blood in their veins, make the blood evidence in a crime scene disappear, or do anything else that involves blood. Blood Sorcery offers unparalleled versatility next to conventional Disciplines, but there is a trade-off: Themes are costlier to use when they aren’t performed as rituals, which take more time. Vampiric Themes also fall short of the True Magick employed by mortal mages, although few vampires are familiar with the exact powers wielded by the Awakened.
Some of the better-known Themes and their purviews include the following. Many others exist beyond these:
• Alchemy: Transmutation of physical matter.
• Ash: Seeing into and piercing the Underworld. This Theme is almost solely the purview of Necromancy and Vodoun.
• Biothaumaturgy: Living flesh and tissue.
• Blood: Blood and vitae. This Theme is almost solely the purview of Thaumaturgy.
• Bone: Animating and controlling corpses and zombies. This Theme is almost solely the purview of Necromancy and Vodoun.
• Conjuring: Summoning and commanding extradimensional entities.
• Curses: Laying curses.
• Destruction: Destroying things.
• Divination: Predicting the future.
• Flames: Fire.
• Levinbolt: Electricity.
• Morpheus: Dreams and sleep.
• Mind: Telekinesis.
• Neptune: Water.
• Sepulchre: Fighting, commanding, and interacting with ghosts. This Theme is almost solely the purview of Necromancy.
• Shadows: Shadows and darkness. This Theme is almost solely the purview of Obtenebration.
• Spirits: Seeing and communing with spirits.
• Technomancy: Computers and technological devices.
• Warding: Defense and protection.
• Weather: Storms and weather.
• Players are both free and encouraged to add additional Themes to this list.
Each Tradition of Blood Sorcery “flavors” Themes differently. A Tremere thaumaturge might use Divination with “scientific” methods like arithmancy or numerology, while a Crúac practitioner might employ entrail reading or rune-casting.
Different Traditions can also use the same Themes towards very different ends. While a Crúac user can use the Conjuring Theme to summon nature-themed spirits from the Spirit World, practitioners of Necromancy use Conjuring to summon ghosts and other death-related entities from the Underworld. Some Themes may also be unavailable to some Traditions. For example, only practitioners of Thaumaturgy can learn the Path of Blood, while only practitioners of Obtenebration can learn Shadows. A character with dots in multiple Traditions caps their Theme dots by their relevant Tradition dots. For example, a Hecata with Blood Sorcery (Crúac 2, Necromancy 4) and Conjuration 4 would be limited to Conjuration 2 when using Crúac to summon nature spirits.
Themes can overlap with one another. A vampire with the Conjuring or Spirit Themes could use either to summon a spirit. However, a vampire with the Conjuring Theme could also potentially use it to summon other types of extradimensional entities, while a vampire with the Spirit Theme could also use it to bind spirits into fetishes and talismans.
Limits of Themes: No Theme can duplicate the effects of a Discipline. Blood Sorcery can’t, for example, read a victim’s mind or make them infatuated with the vampire: that’s what Auspex and Presence are for. Themes also cannot contradict a vampire’s basic nature. This includes granting immunity to banes and traditional vampiric weaknesses (that’s what Coils of the Dragon are for) and anything else that isn’t thematically in line with being a vampire. Biothaumaturgy, for example, can’t directly cure a man’s cancer (vampires aren’t healers), but it could transfer the man’s cancer to another victim.
Above all else, vampires are predators. Blood Sorcery can be used towards a variety of ends, but like any other gift of Caine’s, it most excels when used to corrupt, destroy, and control.
The number of dots a character has in a Theme determines the scope of the effects they can accomplish with it.
• Minor feats. Example: Summon a minor spirit. (Conjuring) Lay an embarrassing but mostly harmless curse. (Curses) Throw a ball through the air. (Mind)
•• Medial feats. Example: Summon a middling spirit. (Conjuring) Lay a frustrating curse that frequently inconveniences someone. (Curses) Throw a person through the air. (Mind)
••• Impressive feats. Example: Summon a potent spirit. (Conjuring) Lay a troublesome curse that alters someone’s lifestyle in a significant way. (Curses) Throw a car through the air. (Mind)
•••• Powerful feats. Examples: Summon a highly potent spirit. (Conjuring) Lay a dangerous curse that turns someone’s life upside down. (Curses) Throw a bus through the air. (Mind)
••••• Incredible feats. Examples: Summon a spirit demigod. (Conjuring) Lay a dire curse that makes someone wish for death. (Curses) Throw a small house through the air. (Mind)
Cost: 1 Rouse check per highest Theme dot used. Reduce this Rouse cost by 1 if the vampire has higher Blood Potency than the highest Theme dot used. Extra successes (see below) can also reduce this cost.
Dice Pool: (relevant Mental or Social Attribute) + Theme dots
DC: Varies by feat the vampire wants to accomplish. Themes that affect another character directly have a DC of (1/2 victim’s relevant Attribute + Supernatural Tolerance) + 1.
Botch: Something goes catastrophically wrong. For example, a summoning ritual might summon a much more powerful entity than the vampire wanted, which also breaks free of its bindings.
Setback: Something goes wrong, though the vampire may still achieve the magical working they were trying to accomplish. For example, a summoning ritual summons a different entity than the vampire wanted, or it summons the right entity but fails to bind it within a warding circle.
Success: The vampire achieves the magical working they were trying to accomplish. Additional successes can affect extra targets, increase Injured’s penalties, reduce the vampire’s number of required Rouse checks, or provide some other scaling benefit.
Rituals: A vampire can make their spells more powerful by taking extra time to cast them as rituals. Taking several minutes grants a +1 bonus, taking an hour or one scene grants a +2 bonus, taking all night or one chapter grants a +3 bonus, taking all week or two chapters grants a +4 bonus, and taking one month or an entire story arc grants a +5 bonus. (Use whichever chronological or narrative duration is shorter). Rare and precious reagents and material components can also grant this bonus depending on their quality.
The vampire can take breaks from their ritual to sleep during the day, but can’t leave the ritual site or perform strenuous actions without making rolls to avoid spoiling the ritual. If a ritual is spoiled, its outcome is automatically a botch—interrupting complex mystic workings can have calamitous consequences.
Synergy: Multiple vampires using the same Theme can channel their powers together, using the normal rules for Aiding Another. Vampire who follow significantly different Traditions may take Disadvantage on their roll or not be able to help at all.
Sympathy: Blood is power. Vampires who have a vitae sample connected to their victim take a bonus on rolls to affect them with Blood Sorcery. The closer the relation, the larget the bonus. A single Rouse check’s worth of blood is good for a one-time bonus: using a blood sample consumes it as part of the spell.
• 0 steps (the victim’s own vitae): +5
• 1 step (sires, childer): +4
• 2 steps (broodmates, grandsires, grandchiler): +3
• 3 steps (sire’s broodmates, great-grandsires, great-grandchilder): +2
• 4 steps (clanmates): +1
A vampire who is related to their victim can simply make a Rouse check to use their own blood. Thus, it is extremely easy for sires to mystically affect their childer and more distant descendants.
A vampire with a vitae sample connected to their victim can also cast spells on them remotely, without needing to be physically nearby. The longer the distance, the greater the penalty to the vampire’s roll.
• Different city district: -1
• Different city/county: -2
• Different state: -3
• Different country: -4
• Different continent: -5
Casting a spell on a victim who isn’t physically nearby opens a conduit that lets them use a single Devotion (or other supernatural power they know) back on the vampire. If the vampire’s spell is subtle (e.g., making it rain over the victim’s haven vs. directly striking them with a lightning bolt), the vampire can make a Clash of Wills to conceal the conduit and prevent the victim from retaliating. The victim uses their dots in Auspex or the same Blood Sorcery Theme to determine the DC. Victims who lack dots in either don’t take a roll at all, though the GM will still have players do so to avoid giving away metagame information.